Surrounded by books at St. Mark’s Bookshop Tuesday night, Patti Smith confessed to a standing-room only crowd that she stole books when she was too poor to afford them.
Fresh off her customary New Year’s show at the Bowery Ballroom run that turns out to be her last after 14 years, the singer and writer shared stories of youthful exploits like pinching books, waiting outside Max’s Kansas City to catch glimpses of downtown royalty Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick and sneaking into the Lower East Side of the ’60s for late-night parties, where she collected material for her songs.
Yet, despite the alluring rock ‘n’ roll surroundings of a then-derelict downtown, Smith became more interested in retreating into the poetic worlds of Arthur Rimbaud, William Burroughs and New Directions, the publisher who so many years later would print her own writing.
“If you live long enough, your dreams will come true,” Smith quipped to the crowd gathered to hear her literary locutions. Indeed, her tales of eating Joan of Arc kidney beans from the can on MacDougal Street across from the Gaslight and wandering around Lower Manhattan drinking Pernod in a poverty-fueled daze were testament to how far Smith has come.